My name is Lori Fenton, and I study how the wind sculpts planetary surfaces. That’s a picture of me in my “orange astronaut pants” walking across the surface of a barchan dune at the White Sands National Monument, as part of a field study I’m working on to understand how sand grains of different mineralogy interact when blown by the wind. (The guy in the background is a park ranger who was immensely helpful with our work on the dunes.)
I use a combination of atmopsheric modeling, data analysis of spacecraft data, and terrestrial analog field work to figure out what windblown features can tell us about atmospheric conditions in remote locations throughout the Solar System. My intent is to use easily-measured aspects of features visible from orbit (like the alignment of dune crests and the spacing between dust devils) to make inferences about surface erosion, wind patterns, and even climate change — all in remote places where it’s prohibitively expensive to send instruments that would measure these things directly. You can download my research papers from ResearchGate if you’d like to know more.
Every week I post a Mars image, showing starkly beautiful vistas of dunes, dust devils, and streamlined rocks. You can see it here at the Cosmic Diary, but you can also follow me on Twitter (@LoriKFenton) or on Pinterest or on Tumblr.